The NBA trade deadline for season 2019/20 has come and gone and what was expected to be a relatively quiet period didn't quite turn out as relaxing as anticipated.
Sure, there were no seismic changes to the top end of the NBA market, but some contenders did make moves to improve. A few teams at the foot of the standings made changes with improvement in mind, as well. The Pistons seem to have simply given up. And the Rockets have decided to challenge the very convention of how the sport is played. Again.
Let's have a look at each and every team, and where they stand post deadline. As far as listed transactions, we're only taking into account trades made in the week prior to the February 6 deadline – Sorry Willie Cauley-Stein.
In: Clint Capela, Dewayne Dedmon, Skal Labissiere, Nene (since waived), 2020 2nd round pick (via Houston), 2021 2nd round pick (via Miami)
Out: Evan Turner, Alex Len, Jabari Parker, Chandler Parson (waived), 2020 1st round pick (via Brooklyn), 2024 2nd round pic (via Golden State)
Atlanta get their man in the middle, in the 25 year old Capela. The Swiss is a solid rim runner, who should gel with Atlanta's youthful star Trae Young. Whilst not an elite rebounder and rim protector, Capela is an immense upgrade over what passed for pivot defense in Atlanta this season. How he fits with John Collins will be telling. Whilst Collins has undoubtedly improved his range to the point where he shoots close to 40% from the corners, he's a rim runner at heart. There won't be any of that whilst he shares the floor with Capela. Of course, the question now is how do the Hawks view Collins? Is he an undoubted core piece? If he fits well with Capela, he might well be. If he doesn't, expect Atlanta to move on from him.
Boston really didn't have anyone worth trading that was on a matchable salary – they're loaded with non core players that are on smaller deals. That's good cap management, but it robs you of ammunition at the negotiating table.
Whilst there's no doubt they would have liked to added a versatile big, there was no real expectation that GM Danny Ainge would make a move.
Brooklyn made their moves in the most recent off season. As such, they're in somewhat of a holding pattern until they can get Kevin Durant back on the court. A low-key interesting thing to watch will be the restricted free agency of sharp shooting wing Joe Harris. Given they've held on to the 28 year old, it looks like the Nets will pay what they need to pay in order to keep him.
Technicians are still investigating as to whether the phone lines in the Charlotte front office were, in fact, operational before the deadline. The Hornets surely shopped their now bench riding veterans. Alas, they were unable to get any assets in. Since the deadline, Marvin Williams and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist have been bought out. With Cody Zeller and Nic Batum due to come off the books in 2021, we'll be going through the same dance this time next year.
The Bulls appear to be a little higher on their prospects that most observers.
Veterans like Tomas Satoransky, the injured Otto Porter and Thad Young especially should have found their way to a contender – none are stars but all are capable rotation players for top end teams. Sure, the Bulls ever growing pile of wounded soldiers makes it hard for them to assess this group, but if offers were there, they'd be foolish to have not looked seriously at offloading the veterans.
In: Andre Drummond
Out: A half eaten box of stale donuts
The acquisition of Drummond for the princely sum of Brandon Knight, John Henson and a 2023 2nd round pick, signals the end of Tristan Thompson, with the veteran likely to be bought out. Despite playing in the league since about 1982, Drummond is still somehow only 26 years old. His timeline is far more aligned with their young core of Garland, Sexton, Osman and Porter Jr. In the short term, it will be interesting to see how he fits with Kevin Love. Love's shooting should open up lanes for Drummond to roll through, whilst Drummond's shot blocking and quick hands should cover for Love's lack of foot speed and rim protection. Should is doing a lot of work in that last sentence – Love has never won without LeBron by his side. Drummond has topped out as the leader of a mid table team. Assuming Cleveland holds on to Drummond, they at least have a core to build around, now. Unfortunately it looks like a core that tops out at mediocre. Much like Drummond's Pistons teams.
Dallas are in a good spot. Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis are both under 25 years old. They have an elite coach. They have a solid supporting cast. The Mavs are ahead of schedule, and appear happy to grow into themselves just in time for the decline of LeBron James.
In: Keita Bates-Diop, Shabazz Napier (since traded), Gerald Green (since waived), Noah Vonleh, Jordan McRae, 2020 1st round pick (via Houston)
Out: Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Jarred Vanderbilt
Denver are taking an educated risk. They're undoubtedly a fringe contender, with a talented and deep young roster. Whilst it makes sense to cash in on Beasley and Hernangomez before they hit free agency, it does erode some vital depth. To that end, Denver have pivoted very smartly t replace them. Juancho was expendable as soon as Michael Porter Jr proved he was healthy, but Bates-Diop is a nice insurance policy. A 6'8” combo forward with a condor like 7'3” wingspan, he has some defensive potential. He's also developed into a knock down shooter from the corners. Napier was redundant with Monte Morris on the roster, so moving him for McRae – a fair Beasley facsimile – was a smart move.
In: Cap relief in human form (Brandon Knight, John Henson), 2023 2nd round pick
Out: Andre Drummond
This trade came out of the blue. Not so much the trade itself – Drummond had been the centre of talks with Atlanta and New York in the past month – but for the pittance the Pistons received in return for their apparent franchise centrepiece.
Make no mistake, this was a straight up salary dump. Henson and Knight are both expiring deals. Perhaps the Pistons brass is hoping that their lack of free agency success in recent years is down to a lack of financial opportunity, rather than a lack of player interest.
The Pistons have been playing catch up for a while now, in regards to balancing their salary cap. The Van Gundy/Bower regime, and Joe Dumars before them, both gummed up the works with some truly horrible signings. Josh Smith, who hasn't played for Detroit since December 2014 is somehow still on the books. In trading Drummond, combined with the likely release of Reggie Jackson, Detroit are – finally – fully committed to a ground up rebuild.
Golden State Warriors
In: Andrew Wiggins, 2021 protected 1st round pick (via Minnesota), 2020 2nd round pick (via Dallas), 2021 2nd round pick (via Denver), 2022 2nd round pick (via Toronto)
Out: D'Angelo Russell, Jacob Evans, Omari Spellman, Glenn Robinson III, Alec Burks
Let's bury the lede for a moment.
The Warriors trading Robinson and Burks for a series of low end 2nd rounders served two purposes: it permitted the team to save about $30 million in luxury tax payments, and it allows Golden State to lean into their 'tanking (not tanking)' season.
The main course, though, is undoubted the Challenge Trade to end all Challenge Trades. Russell is definitely the better player of he and Wiggins, but his fit alongside Curry and Thompson was always going to be clunky. Wiggins fills a positional need. He's also – theoretically, at least – a deep well of untapped potential. The much maligned former #1 pick will finally be in a stable situation, for the first time in hos professional life. If Golden State can make something of Wiggins, they're right back in contention next season. If they can't, he's a very interesting trade piece when attached to a top 5 pick for, just to name a player at random, Bradley Beal.
In: Robert Covington, Jordan Bell (since traded), Bruno Cabocolo, 2024 2nd round pick (via Golden State)
Out: Clint Capela, Gerald Green, 2020 1st round pick
You have to hand it to the Rockets organisation – they don't do things in half measures. This is some Daniel Day Lewis/Joaquin Phoenix level of committing to the character.
In trading their only viable centre sized player (and then forwarding the incoming Jordan Bell for the 'he should be here by now' Bruno Cabocolo), for a straight from the mould 3-D wing in Covington, the Rockets game plan is crystal clear: spread the floor and drive hard. James Harden's particular brand of brilliance might lose a little of it's lustre, with his rare lob chemistry with Capela gone.
However, another man with a 'particular brand' of brilliance should shine in this alignment. Russell Westbrook really doesn't have to shoot the ball at all, should he choose not to. He can drive hard, and drive often, knowing that there is either no shot blocker waiting for him, or an open player ready and willing to fire from deep, should a defender rotate down.
For Covington, this is the prefect offensive situation. Catch; shoot; repeat. His woeful ball handling is a non-factor in Houston.
Defensively, this is going to be very interesting viewing. Capela isn't elite at that end, by any stretch, but he is a legitimately good rebounder and a solid shot blocker. He covered for his guards more than people may realise.
Covington, is an elite team defender, able to cover for the mistakes of people around him. What he isn't, is a one on one stopper, despite his reputation. The lack of a pure stopper on the perimeter, combined with the compete lack of intimidation inside, could see us get some games not seen since the likes of Paul Westhead's early 1990's Nuggets, or the 2019-20 Washington Wizards.
Indiana has it's mid season addition in the form of the returning Victor Oladipo. Whilst he hasn't found form as yet, Dipo should get back to the player we know he can be come playoff time. That though should terrify the other Eastern Conference contenders.
In: Marcus Morris, Isaiah Thomas (since waived), 2022 2nd round pick (via Atlanta)
Out: Mo Harkless, Jerome Robinson, Derrick Walton Jr, 2021 3nd round pick (via Detroit)
In getting in ahead of the Lakers and Bucks to obtain Marcus Morris from the Knicks, the Clippers achieved the double whammy of strengthening themselves, whilst taking away a potential option from their main rivals.
Morris is in the midst of a career year, averaging 19.6 points and shooting a scorching 43.9% from deep. In LA, he'll get all the open looks he can handle, playing next to Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Lou Williams. Morris has a well earned reputation as a ball stopper, but the Clips offense isn't exactly a flowing masterpiece.
All of the players previously mentioned have a similar trait in halting the offense once they have the ball, so that shouldn't be a problem here. What might be a concern, however, is Morris' legendary irrational confidence. The man will genuinely believe that he is the best player on the team.
Come a tight late playoff game situation, Morris is just as likely to go one on one and try to score as he is to sit in the corner and wait for the ball. Of course, he's had big playoff moments before, so he might just make the shot, but you would of course rather Kawhi had the ball.
Los Angeles Lakers
This feels like an opportunity missed for the Lakers. Whilst Marcus Morris might have been a touch redundant, and they couldn't match the Miami offer for Iguodala, there were certainly opportunities out there for the Lakers to improve their lot. Derrick Rose immediately comes to mind, as the play making guard that can take hold of the offense when LeBron sits. Perhaps GM Rob Pelinka could have looked to resuscitate the Kuzma for Bogdan Bogdanovic talks with Sacramento.
As it is, the Lakers will hunt the buyout and free agent markets. Darren Collison was strongly linked to the Lakers before deciding to stay in retirement for the time being, and they're also reportedly talking to JR Smith, who is always cool in a crisis.
In: Justice Winslow, Dion Waiters (since waived), James Johnson (since traded), Gorgui Dieng, Jordan Bell, 2x 2023 2nd round picks
Out: Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill, Bruno Cabocolo
On one hand, Memphis did wonderfully well out of this trade.
For a middling, soon to be 30 year old Crowder, an onerous contract in Hill, and a bloke that never showed up to work, the Grizzlies were able to acquire a highly regarded 23 year old, who not only plays a position of need, but has a perfectly complimentary skill set to their existing young core.
Winslow's defensive ability was what made him a top 10 pick. His rare combination of strength and agility makes him an extremely versatile defender. At the other end of the floor, he's turned himself into a solid shooter from deep (37.9% over his past two seasons) so he should be able to play off Ja Morant.
Winslow's play making ability was unlocked by necessity in Miami, and he could open up a whole new side of Morant by allowing the star point guard to operate off ball.
The other side of the coin, is that Memphis are taking on a permacrocked liability. Winslow has missed 141 of a possible 379 regular season games so far in his career – that's nigh on 40%.
Worryingly, he's had a variety of injuries, so this isn't just a case of getting a particular issue right. There are signs that Winslow is simply not built for the long haul.
In: Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill
Out: Justice Winslow, Dion Waiters, James Johnson
You have to hand it to Pat Riley. He has balls!
Despite his team not being expected to be legitimate contenders, he hasn't rested on his laurels - he's gone all in. In Iguodala, Riley has a defensive rock, a solid play maker, and a man that has seen just about every situation that there can be on an NBA playoff court. Of course, he's also 36 and hasn't played for 8 months. Does the break mean Iggy is rested, or has it allowed his game to atrophy? Jae Crowder is a nice insurance policy should Iggy not be up to scratch anymore. The well travelled veteran has solid playoff experience in his own right. He's not the defensive savant that Iggy is, but he's stout, and works his tail off. Neither of these guys are great shooters, but the Heat have more than enough firepower to cover them.
Of course, in giving up Winslow, the Heat are bidding farewell to a player that – when healthy – might be better than either Iggy or Crowder right now. When you're not a clear cut contender, that takes some serious courage.
The quiet genius of this trade for Miami is that it's cleared some terrible contracts off the roster. Even if things don't quite work out next year, Miami's cap sheet is suddenly a lot cleaner for 2021. Cap space and South Beach? Don't bet against Riley making one more big splash in the next 12 to 18 months.
Why would you mess this up? The Bucks are quietly on course for a top 5 all time regular season. Their +11.9 point differential leads the league by eons. The gap to 2nd placed Boston is roughly the same to 11th placed Oklahoma City. They're legitimately two deep at every position, allowing them to be conservative with their stars court time. Their camaraderie is palpable. As much as Marcus Morris or Bogdan Bogdanovic would look great here, sitting pat doesn't hurt the Bucks at all.
In: D'Angelo Russell, Omari Spellman, Jacob Evans, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Evan Turner, Jarred Vanderbilt, 2020 1st round draft pick (via Brooklyn)
Out: Robert Covington, Andrew Wiggins, Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier, Jordan Bell, Gorgui Dieng, Keita Bates-Diop, 2021 1st round pick
Thank God for former Daryl Morey protege Gersson Rosas. He just about single handedly made this trade deadline exciting with a mega 4-team deal, that he was reportedly the architect of, and with his Uber Challenge Trade with Golden State (apparently the Dubs were almost an extra player in the 4 teamer).
First, the multi-team trade.
Minnesota made out like bandits in this deal. Covington is a 29 year with a history of knee injuries. He doesn't quite fit in with the timeline of Karl-Anthony Towns. Even if he was a few years younger, he's a complimentary piece at best.
Considering the shocking lack of shooting (and lack of general depth) on this roster, getting Beasley and Hernangomez – now presumed starters at the 2 and 4 – as well as a pick expected to fall between 15th and 17th is good business.
Evan Turner is a solid veteran who will help this season, but his expiring contract is the reason the Wolves acquired him. Jarred Vanderbilt is an intriguing throw in. The former 2nd round pick is still only 20 years old. His health has never given him anything like a solid stretch on the court to get his feet wet.
A fluid 6'9”, Vanderbilt's best case scenario is as a bench spark plug. He still needs to learn how to shoot the basketball, but the tools are there. He's a little like now-former teammate Jerami Grant.
In trading Wiggins for D'Lo, they're getting the best player in the deal, and he's also the best friend of their resident superstar. The pick going to Golden State could end up hurting, especially is if it doesn't convey (it's top 3 protected in 2021 – unprotected after that). To that end, Rosas is betting that his new superstar duo and the hugely upgraded depth around them can lead Minnesota back towards – at least – playoff contention.
New Orleans Pelicans
As expected, the Pelicans held tight. It's so early in the process with this team that it doesn't make sense to start moving more pieces around. Zion Williamson is only eight games into his career. Jaxson Hayes is a rookie. Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Derrick Favors and JJ Redick are all in their 1st seasons in Louisiana. It's probably wise to let this stew bubble away for a little while.
New York Knicks
In: Mo Harkless, 2020 1st round pick (via LA Clippers), 2020 2nd round pick (Via Detroit)
Out: Marcus Morris
You might want to sit down for this news: the Knicks made a good, future oriented trade.
In dealing career-year Marcus Morris, the Knicks went against type. They’ve acquired a 1st round pick – likely to fall around #25 – and the serviceable Harkless. They haven’t given up any picks. They haven’t taken on future salary. They’ve even secured swap right with the Clippers on 2021, which is obviously laughable. Still, it’s progress for the leagues worst front office.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Heading into the season, the Thunder were surely the team most likely to make (at least) a trade, yet here we are: OKC have kept their team intact. There was of course the dalliance with Miami for Danilo Gallinari, which was a hairs breadth from getting over the line. If that trade went down, would GM Sam Presti have looked to move more players? We’ll never know.
If the plan was to keep the team together, it’s somewhat of a shame that Presti didn’t look to become a buyer at the deadline. Could the Thunder have picked up a wing to fill the one obvious gap on their roster? They didn’t need to go all out for a Covington, Iguodala or Morris, either. How much better would this team look with Glen Robinson III lining up at small forward?
In: James Ennis
Out: 2020 2nd round pick (via Los Angeles Lakers)
Trading for James Ennis is exciting, isn’t it Magic fans!
The Magic are the definition of middle of the road. They’re talented enough to make the Eastern playoffs each and every year, but their ceiling is the 7th seed. If that’s the goal, then so be it. The team will eventually slide into obscurity and nobody will even notice.
Alternatively, they could have tried to kick off the rebuild properly, trading the expiring Evan Fournier and the head scratching Aaron Gordon. With a star pivot in Nik Vucevic to keep them relevant in the present, and two intriguing talents in Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac to build around, why not shoot for the moon?
In: Glenn Robinson III, Alec Burks, 2020 2nd round pick (via Los Angeles Lakers)
Out: James Ennis, 2020 2nd round pick (via Dallas), 2021 2nd round pick (via Denver), 2022 2nd round pick (via Toronto), Trey Burke (waived), Jonah Bolden (waived)
Thanks to Saint Hinkie – he died for our sins – the Sixers had enough low end picks to facilitate the Warriors getting out of the luxury tax. The price of 3 late 2nd rounders – all likely to be in the 50’s – is a meagre amount to pay for the bench upgrades they’ve received. Robinson has put up 12.9 points, 4.7 boards and shot an even 40% from deep with the Warriors this season. He should be able to come in and make an immediate impact. Burks will likely slot n further down the depth chart, but his play making and improved shooting gives this team another option. The additions also made Ennis redundant. He was shipped out for a late 2nd round pick, which ties things up in a nice little bow.
The Suns slide out of the playoff race perhaps prevented the notoriously impatient front office from entering the deadline as a buyer. That’s the right decision – Phoenix needs to continue to build from the ground up and keeping their 1st round picks is the best way to do that.
Having said that, have they missed a trick in not exploring options for Aron Baynes or Tyler Johnson? Given there are reports that the Suns are going to waive Johnson, perhaps there just wasn’t a market out there for him. Baynes’ shooting and interior defense would have looked great with any number of contenders, but in particular the Clippers, Celtics and Jazz.
In: Cash considerations
Out: Skal Labissiere
The season has waltzed from one injury catastrophe to another in Portland.
From crisis comes opportunity. De’Anthony Melton has emerged as a legitimate back court rotation piece. Carmelo Anthony has reanimated the corpse that was his NBA career. Skal Labissiere showed signs of being a rotation talent – he wont be that piece in Portland though, with the Blazers shipping him to Atlanta, who appear to be on a mission to obtain all of the centres.
With Zach Collins and Jusuf Nurkic both expected back from long term injury by early March, Skal was expendable.
Thankfully, GM Neil Olshey didn’t take the team’s Damian Lillard infused hot streak as a sign they were in the playoff race, and kept his powder dry.
In: Jabari Parker, Alex Len
Out: DeWayne Dedmon, 2020 2nd round pick (via Houston), 2021 2nd round pick (via Miami)
Dedmon wanted out practically from the moment the ink dried on his 3 year $40 million contract, signed last off season. The Kings granted his wish, sending him back from whence he came, getting a serviceable backup in Len and an enigma in Parker.
Jabari showed in his stint starting for the suspended John Collins in Atlanta, that he can still produce on offense, putting up 16.2 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals as a starter. His usual issues have persisted, however: defense and health. Parker’s defensive rating was actually better than his career averages (a huge surprise for this player in this defense) but the eye test showed that for all the speed his hands possess, his legs just don't go east-west since those knee injuries. He's more attentive on defense, but he just not that capable. In addition, he hasn’t played since before Christmas due to a shoulder injury. If he can get healthy, Parker might fit well with Marvin Bagley on offense – which is like being the skinniest kid in fat camp – although that front court would haemorrhage points at the other end.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs just about never trade mid season, and 2020 proved to be no different. So whilst there were calls to cash in on DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay – and perhaps even Patty Mills – it was always highly unlikely.
The off season in San Antonio will be fascinating, however.
General Manager Masai Ujiri was clearly too blinded by the shining baubles emanating from Madison Square Garden to make any trades. Either that, or he was just really happy with his surprising championship contender.
Considering the injuries the Raptors have suffered this season, why wouldn’t they stay the course and see what they have come playoff time? They're playing with house money.
Like the Nets, Utah made their big moves in the off season, adding Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic. They even made an in season trade, upgrading from Dante Exum to Jordan Clarkson.
Short of hoping Mike Conley hits form and finds chemistry with his new teammates, the Jazz had no pressing needs to fill at the deadline.
In: Shabazz Napier, Jerome Robinson
Out: Isaiah Thomas, Jordan McRae
The deadline intrigue with Washington centred around the seemingly league wide chase for Davis Bertans. The Wizards hierarchy had always insisted they were keeping the Latvian, but front offices aren’t always going to keep their word on things like this (see: Russell, D’Angelo).
What the Wiz did do, is get an underrated upgrade at the point in Shabazz Napier – he could start for this team - whilst selling high on McCrae. They’ve also picked up 2018 lottery pick Jerome Robinson, who hasn’t cracked a deep Clippers rotation. He might not be any good, but taking a punt on a ‘2nd draft’ guy like this is smart team building.