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NBA Saturday: Trade Deadline Deals That Didn’t Happen

Basketball Insiders takes a loot at some missed opportunities from Thursday’s trade deadline … Reggie Jackson says he became a scapegoat in Oklahoma City.

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Thursday’s trade deadline surprisingly turned out to be the most active in NBA history. Some of the trades that were executed were complete surprises, such as Michael Carter-Williams being sent to the Milwaukee Bucks, and Brandon Knight landing with the Phoenix Suns. While players like Carter-Williams and Knight were unexpectedly traded, some names that have been in trade rumors for several weeks were surprisingly not dealt before Thursday’s deadline.

Let’s take a look at some trades that didn’t happen and what it means for those players and their respective teams moving forward.

Brooklyn Nets, Brook Lopez 

The worst kept secret in the NBA has been the Brooklyn Nets’ desire to trade expensive veterans Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. Lopez’s name has shown up the most in recent trade rumors and on Thursday it seemed almost certain that the big man would end up with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Nets were in advanced discussions with the Thunder to acquire point guard Reggie Jackson, Kendrick Perkins and Perry Jones for Lopez, according to Adrian Wojnarowksi of Yahoo Sports. Brooklyn would have turned Lopez, who has a player option for next season, into a potentially long-term solution at point guard in Jackson (who is set to be a restricted free agent after this season) an expiring contract in Perkins and a young, multi-talented wing-player in Jones. However, the Thunder passed on the proposed deal with Brooklyn and, as part of a three-team deal, sent Jackson to the Detroit Pistons (and a future first-round pick to the Utah Jazz) in exchange for Enes Kanter, Steve Novak, D.J. Augustin, and Kyle Singler.

So now the Nets move forward with Lopez, who has been openly shopped by the Brooklyn front office for weeks. As previously mentioned, Lopez has a player option for next season and could potentially opt out of the final year in order to land a long-term contract (likely with another team). However, Lopez is set to earn $16.7 million next season, which is a lot of money to pass on. In addition, the salary cap is expected to increase significantly after next season, when the NBA’s new, lucrative television deal comes into effect. At that point, Lopez would be in a position to earn a lot more money than he can after this season, especially considering how many teams will suddenly have extra spending power and the usual high demand for big men. And if the Nets still want to move Lopez after this season, there may be lukewarm interest from other teams since he could very likely be a one year rental.*

*Lopez’s player option was reportedly a contributing factor to teams not making better offers for him prior to the trade deadline.

As for Williams and Johnson, neither player was expected to be moved before Thursday’s deadline. Aside from some preliminary interest from the Sacramento Kings for Williams (before hiring George Karl) and recent interest in Johnson from the Pistons, the market was pretty cool on both players. On a day when teams were making a surprisingly high amount of trades, the Nets failed to move any of its three most expensive players, who combined are set to make roughly $62.6 million next season (assuming Lopez opts into the final year of his contract).

The Nets did manage to trade Kevin Garnett for Thaddeus Young, who has been less than stellar this season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but is still a very solid player. Young, age 26, is a nice addition for the Nets, who are currently ranked ninth in the Eastern Conference standings.

Denver Nuggets, Wilson Chandler –

The Denver Nuggets entered this season with playoff aspirations. However, the Nuggets have been inconsistent all season and it has been apparent for some time that Denver is lottery bound.

The Nuggets traded center Timofey Mozgov to the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this season in exchange for two first-round draft picks. It was a nice haul for a good, but not great center, who became expendable with the emergence of rookie Jusuf Nurkic. The package received for Mozgov reportedly emboldened Denver to demand high returns on its other veterans, including hot commodities Wilson Chandler and Arron Afflalo.

The Nuggets eventually traded Afflalo to the Portland Trail Blazers for Will Barton, Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson, a lottery protected 2016 first-round draft pick and a second-round draft pick. This was a nice haul for a player that can opt out of the final year of his contract after this season.

However, the Nuggets failed to trade Wilson Chandler, who is having a solid season and has a partially guaranteed salary for next season. Whether Denver only received low-ball offers for Chandler, or simply demanded too much in return, it was a missed opportunity to add future assets. While Chandler can still be moved after the season, it just seems as though Denver can’t decide whether to reload or completely rebuild its roster. The Boston Celtics were in a similar situation not so long ago, but general manager Danny Ainge eventually embraced a full rebuild and acquired a ton of assets by offloading a majority of his veteran players.

The Nuggets could have also potentially moved players like Randy Foye, whose salary is also non-guaranteed for next season. Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried were reportedly made available as well, but it would have taken significant offers for Denver to trade either player, which is understandable. Lawson and Faried are both players that are arguably worth building around (although Faried has been disappointing this season), however players like Chandler and Foye don’t figure to be in Denver’s long-term plans.

Considering the make up of Denver’s roster, the nice returns on Mozgov and Afflalo, and the eagerness of contending teams to bolster their rosters on Thursday, it looks as though the Nuggets missed out on an opportunity to move Chandler in exchange for future assets that could have accelerated a full rebuild, which is probably what is needed for Denver at this point.

Reggie Jackson Says he became a Scapegoat in Oklahoma City

Reggie Jackson is one of the best players that was traded before Thursday’s trade deadline. Jackson has never been shy about his desire to be a full-time starter, which became a distraction in Oklahoma City this season. Considering his desire to be a starting point guard and the fact that he will be a restricted free agent after the season, Thunder general manager Sam Presti essentially had no choice but to trade Jackson.

On Friday, in an interview with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Jackson said that he became a scapegoat for everything that has gone wrong in Oklahoma City this season.

“I wasn’t always perfect, nor was the situation, but I became the brunt of the blame there,” Jackson said. “Everything bad that happened, I was the scapegoat. I’m taking all this blame, and I’m wondering: ‘How am I supposed to change it all here, make an impact, in eight minutes a game?’ Everybody is jumping down my neck, and it gets annoying when I’m supposed to have this great impact playing so little this season.

“All of a sudden, I’m the bad locker room guy. I’m the problem.”

In 50 games this season with the Thunder, Jackson averaged 12.8 points, 4.3 assists and four rebounds per game. These per game numbers are above Jackson’s career averages and are roughly in line with his numbers from last season. However, it was apparent to anyone who watched a Thunder game recently that Jackson was not fully engaged while on the court. He would often hold the ball and take tough shots from the perimeter and seemed reluctant to attack the rim.

When asked about the trade deadline and Jackson’s departure, Kevin Durant made it clear that it was a bitter end to his former teammate’s tenure in Oklahoma City.

Jackson joins the Detroit Pistons with a new attitude and more responsibility. Jackson is for the most part unproven as a starting point guard, so it will be interesting to see how he does as the full time starter in Detroit. Jackson started in 13 games in November, filling in for Russell Westbrook who was sidelined with a hand injury. Through that stretch, Jackson averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game. While those numbers are promising, the Thunder won just three of those 13 games.

Another concern for Jackson is his three-point shooting. For his career, Jackson has shot just 28.8 percent from beyond-the-arc and is shooting 27.8 percent this season.

Reggie Jackson Shooting Chart 2014-2015

While Jackson is a poor three-point shooter, he is good at driving and finishing around the rim. But Jackson does not draw many fouls, averaging just three free throw attempts per 36 minutes this season (which is a career high).

With a new coach in Stan Van Gundy, new teammates and a larger role, Jackson has the opportunity to redefine himself and prove that he is worthy of being a starting point guard.

“I’ve always dreamed about this, and I was never sure it would happen,” Jackson told Yahoo Sports. “Stan believes in me, in the leader that I can be. He believes in the player that I can be, and I’ve always imagined having a coach like this, an opportunity like this, in the NBA.

“It just means so much to have someone finally believe in you. I’m Stan’s point guard now, and I want that responsibility. He can cuss me out in the film room, do whatever he needs to do for this team and me, because at least now I have control on the court. That’s all I ever wanted.

“This is my shot now.”

Jackson will likely make his debut with the Pistons on Sunday against the Washington Wizards.


Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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