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NBA Trade Deadline Notebook

Jabari Davis takes a look at some of the difference-making trades from yesterday’s busy deadline.

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Those of us that generally lament the unsatisfied feeling often attributed to the NBA’s annual trading deadline definitely got all that we could have anticipated (and then some) from the flurry of deals and transactions that took place leading up to yesterday’s 12 p.m. ET deadline. In total, more than 35 players and contracts were relocated in what was likely the most active deadline day in recent years.

With so many teams either looking to cement their title hopes, solidify rosters for a playoff push or creatively positioning themselves for the lottery-race at the bottom of the standings, we suppose all of the activity should not have come as a surprise. Here’s a look at some of the more noteworthy deals of the day:

Denver Nuggets send Arron Afflalo in a package to the Portland Trail Blazers

The Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers finally decided to kick the doors open on deadline Thursday when the teams agreed upon a deal that would send swingmen Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee to the Blazers for a package of Will Barton, former lottery-pick Thomas Robinson, Victor Claver and future draft picks (lottery protected first-rounder and second-rounder).

While Afflalo may not be quite the defensive-stopper along the perimeter he once was prior to continuing to develop on the offensive side of the ball, he should join Chris Kaman and Steve Blake in rounding out an above-average reserve crew for a team that has relied heavily upon the starting unit for the better part of the past two seasons.

Seen as a rare win-win scenario for each team, the move provided the Blazers with some much-needed depth in terms of perimeter defense and scoring off the bench while setting the Nuggets up for what could be a series of roster-altering moves between now and the start of next season.

Despite the known level of competition in the Western Conference, the Nuggets (20-33) entered the year expecting to be more competitive as players became more comfortable in second-year head coach Brian Shaw’s system. While there has been no public statement about the future direction of the franchise, additional change is likely on the horizon for the Nuggets.

Robinson, selected fifth overall, now joins his fourth team in three seasons. Still just 23, Robinson continues to search for the right fit at this level. Barton is an athletic wing player that has shown promise over several periods in the past, but also has yet to put everything together in order to provide consistent productivity.

Goran Dragic traded to the Miami HEAT as a part of a large deal

Dragic was reportedly “uncomfortable” with the Suns’ front office heading into the All-Star break, and was moved as a part of a large deal between Phoenix, New Orleans and Miami. Phoenix acquires Danny Granger, John Salmons and two future first-round picks, New Orleans lands Norris Cole, Justin Hamilton and Shawne Williams while Miami gets Goran Dragic and Zoran Dragic.

Goran is clearly the prize of the deal, as the soon-to-be free agent is rumored to already have made Miami assurances that he intends to re-sign with the franchise this summer. Although there’s no such thing as “replacing” LeBron James, Dragic’s addition removes much of the playmaking responsibility for Dwyane Wade and even Chris Bosh and provides the HEAT with another guy that can be called upon for scoring if necessary.

Miami probably wasn’t going anywhere in the postseason and would still likely have difficulty matching up with the Hawks, Raptors and Bulls come postseason, but this is a move that should also benefit them for the foreseeable future as it sets them up with a nice blend of veterans (Bosh, Wade, Luol Deng), youth (Hassan Whiteside, Shabazz Napier) and now a player that is still within his prime years in Dragic.

Reggie Jackson to the Detroit Pistons in a multi-team deal

In Jackson, the Pistons receive one of the league’s more versatile, young guards. The 24-year-old averaged 12.8 PPG, 4.3 APG and 4.0 RPG in 28 MPG, but is expected to seek a starting role as well as a massive payday this offseason. With Brandon Jennings out with a torn Achilles and with the team shipping D.J. Augustin to OKC in return, Jackson will likely step into playing the starter’s minutes he covets in a system that playmakers and perimeter scorers have done well in.

Augustin joins a Thunder team that also welcomed in Enes Kanter, and is right in the mix of what could be a playoff race for the ages as OKC, Phoenix and New Orleans each jockey for the final spot. Augustin had impressed in the absence of Jennings in extended minutes with Detroit, and will absolutely be expected to provide a spark off the bench for Scott Brooks’ squad. Replacing Jackson’s productivity is an attainable goal for Augustin, but Brooks has to be hoping his veteran presence will be a welcomed influence for guys like Dion Waiters and Jeremy Lamb.

Kanter’s addition finally brings in a young big with some offensive game. Kanter (13.8 PPG, 7.8 RPG in 27.1 MPG)  was so good for Utah this season that they ultimately needed to move him in order to simply capitalize on the rookie contract of another promising, young big man in Rudy Gobert. Kanter isn’t quite the defender Steven Adams and perhaps even Nick Collison can be at times (depending upon the matchup), but he can be an above-average offensive rebounder and can score in various ways around the rim and in the paint.

If the parts fit and the team is able to stay relatively healthy down the stretch, OKC may have placed just enough distance between themselves and the other teams vying for one of the last playoff spots.

Phoenix Suns trade Isaiah Thomas to the Boston Celtics

The Celtics sent Marcus Thornton and the rights to Cleveland’s 2016 first-round pick to the Suns for Isaiah Thomas on Thursday. Thomas brings his scoring and playmaking to yet another backcourt where he’ll have plenty of competition from Avery Bradley and rookie Marcus Smart. Thomas is also under a very cap-friendly deal for the next three additional seasons that could keep him in town throughout this young backcourt’s continued development.

Thomas has shown an ability to adapt and accept a reserve role and can even be paired with either of those guards in either a playmaking capacity or in a scoring mode. His ability to create should alleviate some of the pressure on the young guards and provide a bit of offensive versatility to a team still growing within Brad Stevens’ offensive system.

The Celtics had been considered “sellers” by some as the deadline neared, but it is clear they were looking to improve the roster in an effort to make up the one-game deficit they currently have in the loss column behind both the Hornets and HEAT.

Phoenix Suns acquired Brandon Knight from the Milwaukee Bucks

As part of a three-team deal, the Milwaukee Bucks received the league’s reigning Rookie of the Year in Michael Carter-Williams, rookie Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee. The Suns continued dismantling and rebuilding their backcourt with the addition of Brandon Knight and injured guard Kendall Marshall. Everyone noted the roster redundancy and room for potential movement, but no one could have quite anticipated quite as many seemingly all coming together at once for GM Ryan McDonough.

Knight now joins Eric Bledsoe (the last man standing) as the two guards will likely share playmaking responsibilities similar to how Bledsoe and Dragic did for Jeff Hornacek during his rookie campaign at the helm in Phoenix.

It should be noted that Knight is set to become a restricted free agent this summer, but Phoenix should have plenty of cap space to re-sign him if he ends up fitting the system. The Suns could have anywhere from $20-30 million in cap space to work with.

In Carter-Williams, the Bucks are getting a cost-controlled reigning Rookie of the Year with several years to determine whether he can be a positive match alongside a returning Jabari Parker. Carter-Williams isn’t the shooter Knight has been for Milwaukee this season, but he is a very willing playmaker and possesses a well-rounded skill set that Jason Kidd should enjoy developing over the next couple seasons.

Wizards acquire Ramon Sessions from Kings

The move sends Andre Miller to the Kings and reunites him with George Karl, whom the 16-year veteran enjoyed three of his better seasons with earlier in his career (2005-07). Miller’s experience and knowledge of Karl’s system should make for a smoother transition as Sacramento continues to adjust.

Sessions has actually been traded at the deadline in three of the past four seasons and finds himself with a Wizards team right in the thick of a playoff push in a competitive top-half of the Eastern Conference. Washington is just 4-6 over the past 10 games as a red-hot Cleveland is suddenly lurking just one game back in the loss column.

Sessions played sparingly in Sacramento, but can provide the exact playmaking and scoring punch the Wizards had reportedly been seeking. Sessions averaged 15.8 points and nearly five assists per game as recently as two seasons ago while playing for the Bucks and produced well in a reserve role for the Hornets last year.

Kevin Garnett returns to Timberwolves in deal for Thaddeus Young

In what was a bit of a surprise, the Minnesota Timberwolves sent Thaddeus Young to the Brooklyn Nets in order to reacquire the services of Kevin Garnett. Garnett spent the first 12 seasons of his career as the greatest player in the franchise’s history prior to being dealt to Boston before the 2007-08 season. It appears to be a bit of a nostalgic or symbolic move for the Timberwolves as the 38-year-old Garnett is a lot closer to retirement than anything else at this stage in his career.

Clearly, it’s fantastic to have a guy like Garnett return to the franchise as he fades into the next stage of his career -rumored to be interested in ownership- but it seems peculiar to trade a guy in Young whom you just gave up a first-round pick for just last summer.

In Young, the Nets finally get a chance to insert some youth and versatility into their rotation, as the 26-year-old could look to flourish on a bigger stage in Brooklyn. Young has an early-termination option in his contract that could permit him to become an unrestricted free agent as he heads into his prime years this summer.

In total, there were 11 trades and (at last count) 39 players on the move throughout yesterday’s frenzy. Perhaps it was a sign of the times under the current CBA, but there seemed to be far more teams either embracing a “go-for-broke” mentality or accepting the necessity to strategically position themselves for the league’s bottom spots. We detailed plenty of the the other transactions from around the league here and also ranked the deadline’s ‘Winners’ and ‘Losers’ here.

Jabari Davis is a senior NBA Writer and Columnist for Basketball Insiders, covering the Pacific Division and NBA Social Media activity.

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